Why I photograph?

Devon, England, 2019
Devon, England, 2019

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. Oddly, and perversely, because I am not photographing so much, and feel the need to do so, I am also questioning why I do it.

I recently read the book What Does Photography Mean To You? edited by Grant Scott. Reading through the answers to this question from the featured photographers has made me reflect on my own photography and to not just think about why I photograph but also about what photography means in today’s world of increasing computerisation of the photographic process.

In terms of my own thoughts on this I guess the first thing to say is that I am lucky in that I don’t have to please anyone, other than myself, about my photography. I also don’t care about whether my photography is considered to be ‘art’ or ‘commercial’ and have no interest in the discussions which often rage in the photographic world about the seriousness of intent of the photo artist versus the commissioned photographer versus the commercial photographer. In all of this I go along with the words of the legendary Bill Cunningham” “If you don’t take money they can’t tell you what to do, that’s the key to the whole thing.

Whilst considering the question about ‘why’ it’s probably also relevant to consider the nature of photography today. For some time now it has been apparent that cameras are data collection devices and, as we know, that data can easily be manipulated post capture. However cameras are, of course, not just rudimentary devices to collect data they are also incredibly powerful computers. The cameras themselves manipulate images as they are captured and to some extent there is no such thing as an authentic and original image any more. This is going to be increasingly true as artificial intelligence becomes more pervasive in cameras and post-processing software. If you want to read more on this see The Integrity of the Image Report (from World Press Photo, November 2014) which examines the practice and internationally accepted standards concerning the manipulation of still images in photojournalism, concluding with a review of the challenges for verification.

Further, because cameras are now computers it also means as photographers, we are in the hands of the software engineers and developers who are programming those computers. So called computational photography is currently found mainly in mobile phones but, if this rumour about the new Fujifilm X-H2 is true, it will soon be found in conventional cameras as well. All of this means that it will increasingly be the case that it is the decisions being made in the design of a cameras software that influences what the final images look like. As the film director Wim Wenders says in this short video, “Photography is not linked to the notion of the truth any more. People look at photographs and think somethings done to them.

Why do I mention all of this in the context of why I photograph? Well, if, as Wim Wenders says, people will look at photographs and think something’s been done to them then there is probably little point in fighting that view. I actually see nothing wrong with this because something is always been done to an image, even if not deliberately by you. Of course if you are a press photographer pointing out some atrocity that has taken place then you had better not deliberately edit the image to try and enforce your own point of view but you cannot claim the image is completely, 100% accurate to what you saw unfold before you. You may as well embrace this and use it in whatever way you see fit in creating images therefore.

So, why do I photograph the images that I do?

I have never been one to focus on a particular genre or type of photography. I enjoy many subjects from landscapes to portraits, via fashion and street. I’m an ardent believer in what the photographer Jeanloup Sieff once said: “There are no reasons for my photographs, nor any rules; all depends on the mood of the moment.

Here’s what I mean…

Zimbabwe Fashion Shoot, London, 2018
Madrid, Spain, 2017
Tree Overlooking the River Dart, Devon, 2020
Amy, Birmingham, 2021
The Knife Angel, Birmingham, 2019
Natural Rock Sculpture, Devon, 2021

If I were to try and sum up why I photograph I think it would be to say that it is to capture precious moments that will never happen again – split seconds of life that you have seen and attempted to preserve. My camera is a time machine that allows me to go back and relive those moments as well as share them with others.

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